There’s less than three weeks before the Denver Broncos will make their first selection in the 2022 NFL Draft. The Russell Wilson trade means franchise quarterback is presumably solved, but now George Paton has limited draft capital to address the rest of his team’s needs.
This week AJ Schulte and I discussed what that really means for the upcoming rookie class on Cover 2 Broncos, but one thing I wanted to spend more time chewing on is the kind of prospects Denver’s showing interest in. Every team is provided 30 “official” visits to speak with and vet draft prospects, and Mile High Report’s already aware of half of Paton’s. What do national draft analysts have to say about the prospective Broncos? To get a better idea, I started sleuthing.
What follows is a running list of the visits we know the Broncos will have before the draft at the end of the month, along summaries from Dane Brugler of the Athletic, Brandon Thorn, Cory Giddings, Nate Tice, and Derrik Klassen of Bleacher Report, Nathan Cooper, Terrance Stokes, II, Ben Hrkach, Jacob Halleen, Jonathan Drillings, Alec Mallon, Joe McDonald, Max Nuscher, John Todd, Kendall Mirsky, Lucas Reimink, and Jordan Edwards of Sports Info Solutions. Each summary has a link to the author’s full report. I recommend you check them out to learn more.
OT Tyler Smith - Tulsa
Smith is incredibly raw, but he has the play strength and physical traits to get significantly better with technical and mental development. There is a sizable gap between where he is now and his ceiling as a potential NFL starter and will require a patient coaching staff ready for a project.
Smith has the physical traits and aggressive nature to become an eventual NFL starter. However, he is as raw as sushi and a penalty machine who needs to reconfigure his technique from the ground up before he can see an NFL field.
Due to his skill set Smith projects best as a starting right tackle in a zone scheme or a gap scheme that doesn’t ask its tackles to pull often. He can eventually play left tackle, but he needs to become more refined and continue developing in pass pro. He’s a strong blocker in the run game and holds a good anchor, but he can get very grabby and lose control of his fundamentals at times.
OT Abraham Lucas - Washington State
Lucas is not an explosive mover and his hand exchange must improve versus NFL-level competition, but he has a massive frame and the balanced athleticism to keep his man blocked. He projects as a low-ceiling starting right tackle in the NFL.
Lucas’ size, length and raw athletic ability offer some upside as a developmental tackle, but he will have a steep learning curve in the NFL, with his technique from the ground up needing to be retooled.
Lucas projects as a backup swing tackle at the next level. Though he played exclusively on the right side in college, his feet, steady play, and crafty pass pro skills should afford him the ability to play on the left in a pinch. Due to his lack of power, he projects best in a zone-run scheme on a pass-happy offense, though he needs to improve his first step to become a consistent player in the run game. He is a high IQ player that should take well to coaching at the next level. He was clearly more comfortable in the Air Raid system he was recruited into and is still improving as a run blocker.
Washington State OT Abraham Lucas is one of my favorite tackles in the 2021 class.— Commander Matt Valdovinos (@MVScouting) May 23, 2020
Great athlete, very long at 6’7, and arguably the most smooth pass protector in the class.
Lucas(75) against Kayvon Thibodeaux(5). Lucas is patient, his hands eliminate any pass rush move. pic.twitter.com/q98aiJMUcO
OT Matt Waletzko - North Dakota
Waletzko has length that cannot be coached along with functional foot/body quickness, but he must continue developing his strength and stature before he is ready for live NFL reps. He has legitimate NFL upside but will require patience.
Waletzko has the length and athletic ability to offer some developmental upside as a practice squad player, but his minimal contact balance, play strength and technical concerns make him a liability on an NFL field for the foreseeable future.
Waletzko projects as a backup left tackle at the next level. He is best suited in a zone-heavy run scheme so he can use his movement skills and finishing abilities. Because he is more of a finesse player, his lack of power will keep him on the left side of the line. Waletzko has the raw physical tools and is a high-upside player, but will need to add strength and refine his technique.
North Dakota’s Matt Waletzko is prime example of why most NFL grading scales reflect a 3-year window. @matt_waletzko needs time in weight room but many teams have developmental starter grades on him because of upside in pass pro. Could be Day 3 steal.#TheDraftStartsInMOBILE™️ pic.twitter.com/OsIYUUoBmB— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) March 17, 2022
OT Braxton Jones - Southern Utah
Jones needs improved timing, technique and anchor before he is ready for NFL reps, but his movement skills and length are outstanding foundational traits. Although he’ll require an adjustment period, he has the tools to be a starter down the road.
Jones has the length, grip strength and competitive toughness to warrant a look as a draftable backup quality prospect. His technique from the ground up needs to be revamped in pass protection for him to have a chance to stick long-term.
Jones projects as a backup left tackle only player at the next level, fitting in either a zone or gap-based scheme. He needs to get much stronger in his lower half and put on more bulk, but he plays fundamentally sound football. A lot of his struggles come from a lack of strength and anchor ability, so if he improves that aspect, there’s a good chance he can find a way to stick with his other traits.
Braxton Jones is a OT prospect in the 2022 draft class. He scored an unofficial 7.64 RAS at the Combine out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 271 out of 1146 OT from 1987 to 2022. https://t.co/BkCAxM0RrC #RAS via @Mathbomb pic.twitter.com/iiM0Ycq3T9— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 5, 2022
iOL Dylan Parham - Memphis
Parham can play too fast at times and loses his bearings, but he has excellent movement skills and understands how to outleverage defenders and sustain the point of attack. He has the talent level to provide immediate interior depth for an NFL team and compete for a starting job, projecting best at center
Parham’s mobility, core strength and ability to sustain and control defenders once latched provide a strong foundation as a run-blocker. He also has the competitive toughness to finish blocks consistently. Parham’s athletic ability will allow him to pull and work in space effectively while his processing skills lend themselves to a possible move inside at center, where his sawed-off frame may be best utilized long-term.
Parham projects as a starting-caliber guard. He is best suited as a guard, but has the communication skills and awareness to play center. He also has the versatility to be successful both in a zone or gap running scheme. It’s clear his transition from edge to tight end to offensive line is going well, but he just needs to continue filling out his frame, getting stronger, and refining his technique to be effective at the next level, because he has the skill set to do so.
iOL Cole Strange - Chattanooga
Strange struggles to recover once defenders gain the upper hand, but he works hard to stay balanced with his quick feet, strong hands and competitive toughness. He will be ready to compete for an NFL starting job (guard or center) in year one.
Strange has the frame, athletic ability, play strength and competitive toughness to be considered a high-level backup at multiple positions across the line, with starter potential over his first few seasons at guard. He will need refinement to handle himself in isolated situations as a pass protector in the NFL and to learn how to more efficiently win back leverage as a run-blocker, but he has shown that he can dominate FCS competition, and his power and tenacity translated against a major bump up in competition against Kentucky as well as at the Senior Bowl.
Strange projects best as a scheme-versatile left guard, fits all three interior line positions. His nastiness, strength, and movement skills allow him to be a solid guard at the next level work in zone or as a puller in a gap scheme. He also has the short-set anchor ability and hand quickness to hold up in pass pro along the interior, though he does need to fill out his frame a bit more.
The #Bears want speed and nastiness along their OL. I think Chattanooga LG/C Cole Strange is a perfect fit for this team.— Jacob Infante (@jacobinfante24) March 26, 2022
He’s a nasty SOB along the interior who buries defenders, and he has a 9.95 #RAS. Shades of Quinn Meinerz from last year. pic.twitter.com/3S14N6g3c9
iOL Cam Jurgens - Nebraska
Jurgens lacks the brute power to easily control defenders, but he is a twitched-up athlete with play quickness and competitive toughness that will translate to the NFL. He is the round two version of Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum and will grow into a starter for a zone-based offense
Jurgens needs to prove he can add and maintain more weight on his frame, and he will likely require guard help built into whatever scheme he lands in to help him in pass protection. But he is still relatively new to the offensive line, with excellent athletic ability, explosiveness and competitive toughness to offer as a high-end developmental center with starter potential.
Jurgens is a suitable starting center who will thrive in a zone scheme. He lacks the bulk and strength to play as a guard consistently. He has ideal movement skills and the demeanor offensive line coaches desire. He needs to improve on the finer points of pass pro and can be too aggressive at times, but these deficiencies are coachable and his innate athleticism is hard to find.
After watching Nebraska center Cam Jurgens this morning, he’s towards the top of my list for Miami at pick 101.— Dante Collinelli (@DanteCollinelli) March 25, 2022
Needs development, but he’s a scheme fit with a ton of athletic upside. pic.twitter.com/dWwqrtH5as
CB Cordale Flott - LSU
Flott has slick hips to turn and run on command with inside-outside versatility, but he trusts his athleticism more than his technique with below average size and questionable playmaking instincts
Cordale Flott is a versatile athlete with the ability to play as a nickel defender or as an outside cornerback. He has excellent height and length that serves well in both positions...He will need to continue to work on adding weight to his frame, as well as increasing his strength for the next level. His skills and versatility may intrigue NFL executives, but ultimately, he will be a high-level developmental prospect who may pay dividends a couple years into his career.
Flott best projects as a solid nickel cornerback at the next level with good position flexibility. Flott has more experience and a suitable skill set inside, but his best role may be on the perimeter. He is scheme versatile, with plenty of traits for a press man corner because of his athleticism and physical play style, but also solid zone range and ball skills. His feisty aggression makes his recognized play strength greater than his true physical strength and size, which will need to be further developed moving forward with added bulk to fill out his frame. Flott projects as a strong special teamer and could see time on both kickoff and punt units due to his ability to get down the field quickly and throw his body around.
Impressive interception from LSU CB Cordale Flott. Likely an early day three pick. Excellent awareness of the receiver sneaking behind him. Maintains enough depth, reads the QBs and makes an acrobatic catch. pic.twitter.com/ASBmvZw0CP— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) April 7, 2022
WR Tyquan Thornton - Baylor
Thornton will have a tougher time masking his lack of build or play strength vs. NFL competition, but his speed plays at any level, and his midair adjustment skills could be what keep him on an NFL roster.
Thornton will be able to contribute early in his career as a deep threat who can take the top off defenses with his legit track speed. He is an adequate route-runner but will need more polish to be more useful on a down-to-down basis. Thornton is also a willing blocker for teammates and does not shy away from being physical despite his skinny frame, which might indicate some special teams potential as a gunner. His lack of consistent hands through contact will make or break his upside for a more prominent role. But teams will find immediate use for his ability in the red zone and of course his speed to open things up underneath for other options, with traits for outside starter potential down the road with continued development.
Thornton projects as a No. 4 receiver at the next level. He projects best as an outside receiver, because of his long frame and good speed. On 3rd downs and obvious passing situations, he will line up outside and use his speed and deep playmaking ability to take the top off the defense. He can also use his skills off the line in the red zone. He will need to improve his route running if he wants to see the field more. He doesn’t have much special teams experience in college, outside of being a kick returner, but has the speed and enough toughness to be a contributor in some areas.
Baylor's Tyquan Thornton is a solid day 3 WR for the #Giants to consider— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) April 7, 2022
☑️ Fastest 40 at the Combine checks out with his play speed
☑️ Easy separator, smooth athlete
☑️ Good COD/SAQ for taller WR
☑️ Large 33+ inch arms
Speed is key in the NFL. TT offers that at a value pic.twitter.com/BONTqej0UJ
ED Isaiah Thomas - Oklahoma
Thomas has subpar get-off quickness and finishing skills, but he has NFL-level size, length and strength to be a rotational defensive end in a 4-3 base defense, kicking inside in sub packages.
Thomas needs a lot of work to become a starter. His lack of bend may always make him a limited player, so he must develop as a run defender and expand his pass-rushing arsenal. With that said, his explosive traits are worth a Day 3 draft pick. Thomas is likely best as a stash-and-develop type rather than someone who should vie for snaps right away.
Thomas projects to be a versatile backup along the defensive line at the next level. Ideally he is a defensive end for a 4-man front defense where he can set the edge or even a 5-tech as a run defender rather than along the interior on early downs. On 3rd down, Thomas can rush the passer from a variety of alignments, but will be most productive rushing off the edge. Thomas’ length and quickness could serve a role on a punt block team, but it’s hard to envision him as a core special teamer at the next level.
If you look at +265lb DEs that run 4.7 or less - there’s an EXCITING list of NFL talent— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) March 23, 2022
Only 2 from the Combine this year… We’ve talked about Travon Walker (who is a freakshow) but don’t forget Isaiah Thomas (6’5 266 4.70)
I thought Thomas was quietly damn good in Mobile! pic.twitter.com/5Q46ZYHFrP
DB Ja’Quan McMillan - East Carolina
McMillian is undersized and has only average speed, but he is an aggressive competitor with terrific instincts, eye use and ball skills. He projects best in the nickel.
McMillian projects as a versatile player at the next level. Although he can not hold up as an outside corner, he has the skills to play in the slot as well as at safety. Due to his foot quickness, instincts, and competitiveness, McMillian wins enough reps to allow him to stay on the field, giving him the opportunity to create turnovers. He is a developing player with good physical tools, an aggressive mentality, and a gift for taking the ball away. His size will limit his effectiveness on special teams, but he has the athleticism and attitude to contribute.
Ja'Quan McMillan and DJ Ford at ECU Pro Day pic.twitter.com/2KSd9eXKXN— Clip -The Future- Brock (@tweetingclip) March 29, 2022
RB Isaih Pacheco - Rutgers
Pacheco is a fast, energetic runner with the toughness and pass-blocking upside to stick in the NFL, but he needs to add patience and pace to his run diet and play with better control to have a chance at a pro career.
Pacheco projects to be a nice change-of-pace option to a running back room in the NFL. He’ll need to improve his run tempo regardless of his scheme, but he currently projects more comfortably to gap schemes that allow for quick hitting runs. He was also often given jet sweep handoffs and pitches to the outside, which got him into his preferred open-field spaces. He has the ability to contribute on 3rd down with his speed and toughness, but he’ll need to improve his stoutness in pass pro and consistency as a receiver to see more regular usage. He was a good kickoff returner his freshman season but hasn’t seen special teams duties since. He is a good candidate to return to that role in the NFL, and his physical profile also projects well to other units.
#Rutgers RB Isaih Pacheco is the late round RB most teams should be eyeing to add to a committee. Built like a brick house. Was one of the best players at both the Hula Bowl and East-West Shrine Bowl.— Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid) March 5, 2022
TE Cole Turner - Nevada
Turner is limited as a blocker, but skilled as a pass-catcher because of his ball skills and body control to easily expand his catch radius. He can be a poor man’s Mike Gesicki in the NFL, although his one-dimensional skill set will limit his landing spots.
Turner projects as an H-tight end who fits best off the ball or in the slot, utilizing his best traits in passing situations. He has the ability to be a tough matchup cover on 3rd downs, but still needs to keep improving his route running ability to be able to separate more often mid-route. His struggles as a blocker make it tough for him to be counted on as a run blocker on 1st or 2nd down, though he can at least wall defenders off in pass pro for a couple of seconds if needed. He has the physical ability and athleticism to play on some special teams units, but also doesn’t show he really embraces that aspect of the game either.
#Nevada TE Cole Turner and goal line fades. Name a better duo!— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) December 26, 2021
Seriously, he’s a weapon in the red zone. Boxes out defenders like a post player in basketball and has a nice catch radius, able to contort his body in many different ways. pic.twitter.com/GYyt2JZ0gl
DB Nick Grant - Virginia
Grant projects as a backup free safety in a 2-high zone scheme where he can use his instincts, athleticism, and speed on passing downs and 3rd downs. While he did play most of his snaps at corner in college, his skill set fits better on the back end with the occasional chance he gets to work back down into the slot against tight ends. He will be a special teams contributor because of his speed and athleticism, but his lack of physicality may hinder where and how much he contributes.
Awesome rep here from Virginia cornerback Nick Grant. Really smooth short area COD for a defensive back 6’+. Doesn’t get talked about much but there are tools to work with there. pic.twitter.com/0BkDOqnM70— Ryan Roberts (@RiseNDraft) December 16, 2020
QB/WR - D’Eriq King - Miami (FL)
King is undersized, and his history of injuries is concerning, but he has exciting athleticism to make the transition to wide receiver while also contributing in the backfield with his ball-handling skills.
Miami HC Manny Diaz announced D’Eriq King opted to have season-ending surgery…— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) October 11, 2021
Two final notes: After doing some digging I did not find a single scouting report on QB/WR/KR Jared Bernhardt and running back Shermari Jones. Bernhardt is a former lacrosse player who played QB for D2 power Ferris State. He’s expected to try and make it in the NFL as a receiver, but ran a 4.7 40 at 6’1 and 189 lbs. Jones is a 6’ 213 lb. running back from Coastal Carolina who finished his career with 247 touches for 1475 yards and 16 touchdowns. Odds are the Broncos brought them both in for a visit to recruit them for after the draft.
Shermari Jones is a RB prospect in the 2022 draft class. He scored a 6.66 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 531 out of 1589 RB from 1987 to 2022. https://t.co/RW1NcUAg1n #RAS pic.twitter.com/qbhOKXHJoD— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 4, 2022
Your Broncos’ News
Rob Walton, of Walmart, intends to submit a huge bid on the Denver Broncos on Friday that will make him an immediate favorite to purchase the franchise.
“A bid needs to have a four in front of it,” a source close to the process told the Post. At an estimated worth of $70 billion, Walton presumably can offer more than anyone else, which would be enough to secure the team. Although the league reportedly had hoped that the team would be sold to a group led by a minority, the Broncos currently are held in trust — and the trustees have a fiduciary duty to maximize the return. The final price, per the Post, is expected to land between $4.5 billion and $5 billion.
The veteran safety will return for year four in Denver.
AJ Schulte and Joe Rowles discuss on this week’s Cover 2 Broncos.
A look at the NFL careers, or lack thereof, for the heaviest guards and tackles from the NFL combine 2000-2022
Could Abraham Lucas be the Broncos’ right tackle of the future?
What prospects have the Denver Broncos been showing interest in
Steve Wilks, Ray Horton join Brian Flores’ lawsuit against NFL, teams, in alleging racism in hiring practices
Steve Wilks, who was the Arizona Cardinals’ head coach for one season in 2018, and Ray Horton, an NFL assistant since 1994 who interviewed for the Tennessee Titans’ head-coaching job in 2016, are now part of the lawsuit filed against the league, the Dolphins, the Denver Broncos, the New York Giants, the Houston Texans, the Titans and the Cardinals, plus 26 other “John Doe” NFL teams. The Titans, Cardinals and Texans were added to the suit as part of the amendment as well.
According to @JayGlazer the Broncos have worked out former Viking and Giant Kyle Rudolph.— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) April 8, 2022
Gordon is just a few years removed from having enough performance-based leverage to demand a pay raise (or trade) from the Chargers, who ultimately let him walk in free agency following a 2019 season that began with a holdout. Gordon didn’t venture far when finding a new team, signing a two-year, $16 million deal with the AFC West rival Denver Broncos.
Gordon ran 203 times for 918 yards and eight touchdowns with the Broncos last season. There was word of a possible return to Denver last month, but Gordon recently changed agents as part of his continued search for a new team.
“To be honest, if they would’ve offered me Justin Reid’s deal, obviously I would’ve tried to negotiate, but if that’s where they drew their line in the sand, I probably would’ve took it,” Mathieu said. “I probably would’ve took it. Agents are going to do their thing, but at the end of the day, it’s the player’s decision whether to sign it or not.”
Having drafted Jones 35 months ago, the Giants’ evaluation period is just about up. They have until May 2, the first Monday after the draft, to pick up Jones’s fifth-year option, which would lock him in for a fully guaranteed salary of about $22.4 million for 2023.